Press release

New arts GCSEs to be introduced in 2016

Arts GCSEs to be reformed.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Teacher working with pupils

Education Secretary Michael Gove announced today that a number of arts-based subjects are to be reformed as rigorous, demanding and world-class new GCSEs and A levels for first teaching from September 2016.

At GCSE level, they are art and design, music, drama, and dance.

Five other subjects - citizenship, computer science, design and technology, PE, and religious studies - will also be reformed on this timetable.

The announcement means students will be able to access high-quality, rigorous GCSEs in the arts at the same time as reformed GCSEs in languages, history, sciences and geography. Only GCSEs in English and maths will be reformed more quickly (for first teaching from September 2015).

New GCSEs in the 9 subjects announced today will be re-designed to the same high standards as new GCSEs in the EBacc subjects, content for which is being published later today. The Department for Education has already announced content for rigorous new GCSEs in English and maths, which will be available a year earlier, from September 2015.

These 9 GCSEs can be included within the new secondary accountability measure, which is based on a pupil’s progress in 8 subjects - English and maths; 3 EBacc subjects; and 3 other subjects (which can be EBacc subjects, but which can also be these new GCSEs, or high-quality vocational qualifications). The increase in the number of subjects that count in performance tables (from 5 to 8) will encourage more schools to ensure more students do well in the arts.

At A level, music, drama, and dance, as well as design and technology, PE, and religious studies will be reformed. These new A levels will ensure that students have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in demanding undergraduate courses. They will be taught for the first time in September 2016, alongside new A levels in maths, further maths, languages and geography.

It has already been announced that new A levels in art and design, business, computer science, economics, English literature, English language, English language and literature, history, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology will be taught from September 2015. Content for these subjects will be announced later today.

The content of the more demanding content for the 9 GCSE subjects and 6 A level subjects will be developed by exam boards drawing on the advice of subject experts such as Dyson, Arts Council England, the Design and Technology Association, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Music Education Council, British Computer Society and the Religious Education Council. A level content will also be based on the advice of respective subject experts from universities.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

I am passionate about great art, drama, dance, music and design, and I am determined to ensure every child enjoys access to the best in our culture. I also want all schools to be able to nurture creative talent in every child.

That is why I am delighted that new high-quality qualifications in creative and cultural subjects will be made available to all students. They will now have the chance to take these new qualifications from September 2016.

This is fantastic news for cultural education in England’s schools.

Richard Hallam, chair of Music Education Council, said:

The Music Education Council has been coordinating the music sector’s work on a new GCSE specification and it welcomes Music’s inclusion in the next tranche of reformed GCSEs to be introduced from 2016. This inclusion sends a renewed message of the educational importance of music and other arts subjects.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the subject association for music, welcomed the announcement. She said:

The ISM started work on revising GCSE music in January 2013, and we are delighted that this work - now with the involvement of the Music Education Council, the umbrella body for music education, and other stakeholders - is going to come to fruition in 2016.

Sir James Dyson said:

Design and technology is the only subject that puts science and maths into a practical format, giving young people an opportunity to understand how a product works and invent a better way.

These are essential skills if Britain is to create and export the technology that other countries want to buy.

We need to help teachers show how exciting a career in design engineering can be, so I’m delighted that the James Dyson Foundation was invited to shape the new GCSE and A level qualifications.

Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM and author of the independent review of cultural education, said:

I strongly believe that all children can and should benefit from receiving a wide-ranging, adventurous and creative cultural education. Studying subjects such as art and design, dance, drama and music helps young people grow into well-rounded, knowledgeable and skilled individuals.

It’s a really important part of every child’s education, so I’m excited that the government is building on its commitment to improve cultural education by continuing to back the recommendations of my 2 independent reviews. The introduction of improved GCSEs in arts subjects in 2016 is a further important step.

The Department for Education is providing more than £340 million for arts and cultural education programmes over the 2012 to 2015 period.

Today’s decision represents a further testimony of the importance the government attaches to these subjects:

  • BFI Film Academy - the Department for Education, with substantial support from the British Film Institute, has set up a new film academy to help train the next generation of talented filmmakers. The film academy is providing 500 16- to 19-year-olds a year with high-quality local and residential courses which have been designed to develop new skills and build their careers in the film industry.

  • Heritage schools - the Department for Education is working with English Heritage to develop a heritage schools programme to ensure children can appreciate their local area and recognise its heritage and place in the national story.

  • Museums and schools programme - the Department for Education is funding the museums and schools programme, managed by Arts Council England. It will provide high-quality, curriculum-linked activities in 10 regional museum services, in partnership with national museums, and is working to increase significantly the number of young people accessing museums in areas where take-up has traditionally been low.

  • The Shakespeare Schools Festival and RSC Shakespeare toolkit for teachers - the Department for Education is supporting an ambitious plan to give thousands of children the chance to stage a Shakespeare play in a theatre. More than 1,000 schools and 62,000 pupils have benefited so far, and it is hoped a further 50,000 will be involved this year. The Shakespeare Schools Festival provides schools with abridged scripts and rehearsal tips as well as finding local theatres in which to perform. The Royal Shakespeare Company has provided all state-funded secondary schools with a free copy of its RSC Shakespeare toolkit for teachers. In addition, all state-funded primary schools will be provided with a specially adapted version of the Shakespeare toolkit for teachers.

  • Poetry By Heart - this national poetry recitation competition inspires poetry teaching in schools and encourages pupils and teachers to access our world-class literary heritage. The competition enables pupils to develop self-confidence and greater cultural and creative understanding.

  • Dance and Drama Awards - these scholarships offer income-assessed financial support to talented actors and actresses at 20 leading dance and drama schools In England.

  • Music education hubs - the Department for Education committed more than £171 million between August 2012 and March 2015 for a network of 123 music education hubs across England. Hubs, managed by Arts Council England, are working to fulfil core roles which include ensuring that every child aged 5 to 18 has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and to sing, as well as to perform as part of an ensemble or choir.

  • In Harmony - this programme aims to inspire and transform the lives of children through community-based orchestral music-making. Building on the success of Venezuela’s El Sistema project, the programme raises the expectations and improves the life chances of children through high-quality musical education. It is jointly funded by the Department for Education and the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

  • National youth music organisations (NYMOs) - the Department for Education and Arts Council England jointly fund NYMOs, offering high-quality opportunities for the most talented young musicians in England to develop their skills and perform in national ensembles.

  • The Music and Dance Scheme - this internationally renowned scheme supports exceptionally talented young musicians and dancers to receive world-class training in their chosen field alongside a good academic education. The Department for Education is providing £84.1 million from 2012 to 2015 to enable 2,200 pupils to benefit from this inspirational programme.

  • National Youth Dance Company - jointly funded with the Department for Education and overseen by Arts Council England, the new National Youth Dance Company has been set up and managed by Sadler’s Wells Trust Ltd. Each year the Company recruits 30 talented performers aged 16 to 19 and provides with them with intensive training and performance opportunities led by world-renowned choreographers.

  • The Sorrell Foundation’s national art and design Saturday clubs - with Arts Council England, the Department for Education is providing funding to scale up the Sorrell Foundation’s national art and design Saturday clubs, which give 14- to 16-year-olds the opportunity participate in inspiring classes where activities range from drawing and sculpture to print-making and stop-frame animation. These clubs run every Saturday morning at local art and design colleges or universities, and are free.

  • Artsbox - through the Department for Education and Arts Council England investment, Trinity College London has developed Artsbox, a tool for young people to record, review and share their cultural journey.

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Published 9 April 2014